History

Is It Time for a New Constitutional Convention?

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In a 2010 interview on MSNBC, liberal Washington Post writer Ezra Klein said that the U.S. Constitution "is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago." Klein's historical timeline was a little off, but he was at least correct that some parts of the Constitution are getting up there in years. Is the document getting too old for our modern world? Is it time to call a new constitutional convention and start from scratch?

At the great Library of Law and Liberty website, two distinguished legal scholars are debating those very questions. First up is University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson, who makes the case for what he calls a "Jeffersonian" approach, which involves "relentlessly asking whether the Constitution is serving us well." Levinson writes:

Thomas Jefferson was wiser than he knew when he counseled against treating the Constitution as similar to the "ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched" or, more importantly, to be changed.  All constitutions are human artifacts, and one must always remember the propensity to error of even the finest human beings (as we might concede most of the Framers to have been).  They were creatures of their own time, well aware that the future would bring different realities and almost certainly require different solutions to problems of government, including basic questions of design….

We best honor the Framers, then, by exhibiting their own willingness to challenge the verities of their times and to cease our own often "blind veneration" for the Constitution they created. What has been long settled may not be subject to conversations about "meaning," but it is surely past time that it be analyzed for its wisdom in a 21st century America.

In response, New York University law professor Richard Epstein rejects Levinson's plan, declaring that he "would fight against this general approach with every fiber of my being." Why? Here's Epstein:

It is not because I think that the current state of affairs is ideal, when manifestly it is not.  It is rather that I think that any revision of the document will move us dangerously along a path of greater and more powerful government at the national and state levels that will only make matters worse….

The overall message is this.  The convocation of new conventions will introduce a new degree of uncertainty that is likely to make matters worse not better.  It is commonly said of taxes that old taxes are better than new ones, because people can adapt to them.  That is true of constitutions as well.

I'm with Epstein on this one. Rather than wasting time and energy on drafting a whole new constitution, why not focus on getting the government to actually follow the one we've got?

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  1. Yeah, this would be a bad fucking idea.

    1. My first thought, exactly.

      1. How can the Constitution be serving us well when it cannot be understood. It has to be interpreted by the ordained. Half of the Supreme Court believes that it means one thing and the other half believe that it means the opposite.

        1. Yeah, a new one would so obviously solve that issue.

    2. Let me be clear.

      I agree this is a bad idea.

      Instead, people should post their ideas for the New Constitution at whitehouse.gov.

      1. Article I
        GIMME FREE SHITZ!!!!!1!11!

        1. I laughed.

    3. I think it would be wonderful to get some of the wisest people in the country to draft a new Constitution that would fetter the government and broaden the freedoms guaranteed to the people.

      But if such a Constitutional Convention actually took place, we would probably just get the codification of highway robbery and slavery.

      1. But if such a Constitutional Convention actually took place, we would probably just get the codification of highway robbery and slavery.

        See: Europe.

  2. We would love for this to happen, so we can insert all kinds of “positive rights” like the right to health care, food, clothing, shelter, public transportation, cable TV, and ponies.

    1. I am soooooo wet right now.

    2. What about unicorns?

  3. Rewriting it in our contemporary political environment would be nothing short of disastrous. We’d end up with a thousand page Constitution that no one could ever fully parse. Look how much arguing we get into over the tiny document we already have.

    Rather than wasting time and energy on drafting a whole new constitution, why not focus on getting the government to actually follow the one we’ve got?

    As for this, the entire goal of most in government is to get around that annoying set of rules.

    1. Exactly. The fact that the Constitution still succeeds in blocking the scumbags from doing some things is why this talk of a convention has been started.

      If there was a convention, the nightmare that would result from it would be inconceivable.

      1. ^^This^^ As I have said before, how can anyone think it is a good idea to get rid of a document written by the greatest political class in history and replace it with one written by the current political class?

        Who do you think would get elected to this convention? Can you imagine letting shitbags like Pelosi or Lindsey Graham write a Constitution? That would be the end of the country.

        1. Or letting shitbags like Bernie Sanders or Rick Santourm write it?

          1. Or shitbags like …………….?

            1. Sorry, the entire congressional roster doesn’t fit in 900 characters.

              1. Rand Paul doesn’t fit that category.

            2. So many shitbags, so little time.

              1. It’s easier to list the non-shitbaggy ones, that’s for true.

              2. It’s shitbags all the way down, ma’am.

        2. Didn’t Lysander Spooner already cover this? It’ll just lead to more shit, no matter what happens.

          1. Spooner was a Christ-fag.

            1. So apparently both you and Spooner want to fellate Jesus Christ.

              1. Even if I wanted to, both Christ and I are long-dead.

                This shrike fellow could use a good dose of laudanum, it would seem.

        3. I have said before, how can anyone think it is a good idea to get rid of a document written by the greatest political class in history

          That train has pretty much left the station.

    2. “Rewriting it in our contemporary political environment would be nothing short of disastrous.”

      I agree. While I think the need to update the Constitution is evidenced by the inclusion of Amendment procedures, any *official* change to the Constitution in the current political climate would be disastrous- whether by liberals or conservatives.

      Until true practice of the current Constitution become reality, we’ll only have a vague idea of how well it addresses the needs of a 21st-century America. So, so it seems to me that the case for a Constitutional Convention is as mute today as the pushes for amendments such as the Balanced Budget have been over the past few decades.

  4. First we would need a new Revolution / Civil War to determine who gets to write it.

  5. Please, Jesus, no. We’d lose what’s left of the shards of limited government if we did that today.

    I am open to doing some amendments, though I’m afraid bad things could happen that way, too. Some unamendments would be nice, as well.

    1. When a convention is open, there is no obligation for it to even be remotely related to the amendment language that was petitioned. I would assume in our present environment that whatever language is used to convince the people into adding an amendment was only being used for duplicitous purposes. You know these people even before you know their very names.

    2. We’d lose what’s left of the shards of limited government if we did that today.

      Feature!

  6. Why bother, the rules will be broken very quickly no matter what is written in it.

    1. That is of course how we got the constitution we have today.

  7. I would hate think what gawdawful rag of terrible ideas these assholes would cobble together today.

  8. Kinda scary to consider it these days. Given how fucking stupid so many Americans are these days – particularly the progressive left, it’s frightening to think what they might come up with – probably use the South African constitution or something from northern Europe as a model.

    1. But more free stuff.

  9. HA!

    Pretty funny that everyone so far has made essentially the exact same comment.

    1. And I completely agree with them.

  10. Massive Corpolite of political expediancy no..

  11. why not focus on getting the government to actually follow the one we’ve got?

    No shit, why are they even worried about what the constitution says? It’s not like they’re constrained now.

  12. I am terrified beyond belief at the thought of our current political class attempting to rewrite the Constitution.

  13. What, didn’t the founders have an amendment process? I heard it was used 27 times in 223 years. But I guess the SCOTUS or Obamabush or someonone removed it.

    1. The feds and the progressives haven’t seen the need to use that process in a long time. It’s easier to have SCOTUS discover new interpretations of the existing words that nobody suspected were lurking there.

      1. Starting with the SCOTUS interpretation that “The constitution means whatever the hell SCOTUS says it means, and nobody can challenge anything we say”

  14. I forsee a revolt or civil war if a constitutional convention were to attempt to scrap the existing Constitution.

    1. It’s already mostly been scrapped anyway. They just want to do away with the last bits that remain.

      1. It sure would be helpful if “compelling gov’t interest” and “narrowly tailored” were inserted into that damned Bill of Rights.

        Actually, progs could claim that they’re even more limited gov’t than conservatives, because they would be fine with redacting the entire bloody thing except for “general welfare”, “necessary and proper”, and “interstate commerce”. See, we’re so limited gov’t, we only need three sentences!

        1. You forgot “Fuck you, that’s why.”

          1. That would be Article II.

    2. Correct – the convention site would be a battle zone.

      1. Sounds like a reason to DO it!

  15. No for the love of God, Zod, Zeus and the Flying Spaghetti Monster NO.

    We don’t have a group of delegates like we did in the 1780’s. The problems we have come from not following the one we have.

    The new one would read like old VCR instructions and make less sense. The only thing anyone could parse from it is “We can do anything we want.”

    Might as well hasten the return of the Elder Gods in that case.

  16. Word. The old one works just fine with better enforcement of basic rights. Not positive ones.

    Any individual exceptions would have to be really, really, special, and there are other processes better suited to deal with wholesale proposals. They’re rash, and likely detract from the overall efficacy of its workings.

    Always room for improvement, but there’s a reason to be here.

  17. The US Constitution?

    Hell no.

    State Constitutions? At least in California?

    Hell yes. The Public Sector Unions are engaged in a mass bukake hold up that is taking us ever closer to auto-asphyxia.

  18. why not focus on getting the government to actually follow the one we’ve got?

    We are following it. Commerce Clause, biotches!

  19. How is Klein’s historical timeline off? Did we adopt a new constitution sometime in the last 100 years? Maybe someone forgot to tell me.

    1. What Klein said is technically true, but not very precise. What he said would apply to the Magna Carta as well. It kind of shows the shallow depth of Klein’s thinking.

      1. Hey, he’s deep. Deep like the Pacific Ocean, which is over three feet deep in some places.

        1. I guess the fundamentalists are right when they saw the world is over six thousand years old.

        2. [citation needed]

      2. Not quite technically true, even. Parts of the constitution were written less than 100 years ago.

        1. Like the commerce clause.

          1. I actually laughed out loud.

  20. Rather than wasting time and energy on drafting a whole new constitution, why not focus on getting the government to actually follow the one we’ve got?

    Or you can amend the constitution as the constitution allows.

    Why even have this debate as we can change it at anytime we like…and yet it has not changed.

    WTF?!?!

    1. I believe that the constitution also allows for constitutional conventions.

    2. I’m guessing that the thinking behind a convention is an all-encompassing constitutional bitchfest that would allow the modern progressive America to finally guarantee free everything for everyone, make sure hate crimes are enshrined into constitutional principle, and create a whole host of positive rights– oh, and public-ify these here internets (net neutrality) and create a state-run media empire.

      It’s hard to do that with one amendment which is very difficult to pass. But if you could get everyone to agree that we could better spend that energy scrapping it and rewriting it… that’s the direction they’d rather go.

  21. Craftsmen have a saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

    How do we know “it ain’t broke”? Well, it has worked for over 200 years and the only document in human history that can challenge that is the Magna Carta (correct me if anyone knows of another) and the Magna Carta didn’t even try to limit “government”, just the King.

    1. Well, there was that whole civil war episode…

    2. Define “it has worked”. Before you do so, look up the current deficit and debt. Also, let me know the number of people in jail for non-violent offenses. Also, let me know how many countries we have troops in, and how many countries we are legally at war with.

    3. Well, it has worked for over 200 years and the only document in human history that can challenge that is the Magna Carta (correct me if anyone knows of another)

      The Bible!

    4. The old Torah!

    5. I’d show you, but mine’s on fire!

      1. I’d show you, but mine’s on fire!

        I’m sorry.

  22. Article 1: Kill all the lawyers

    1. Given who makes up the majority of the politcial class, good luck with that.

      1. Yeah, that’s just something we should do at the constitutional convention itself.

  23. “What has been long settled may not be subject to conversations about “meaning,” but it is surely past time that it be analyzed for its wisdom in a 21st century America.”

    The problem is that the first things on the list that such people want to revisit are things freedom of speech, religion and the inherent inefficiencies in the structure presented by checks and balances system. A too efficient government is not a good thing for a healthy society.

  24. This is sorely needed. The document is a brilliant product of the Enlightenment, but its brilliance (that is, its firstness) is the very reason it must be updated. It’s just outdated. There are experts, American and otherwise, who travel the globe constructing constitutions for new democracies that crop up. It can happen. No one can seriously argue our system is without fundamental flaws. Well, in these parts it’s treated as a sacred text, and like all sacred texts, interpreted according to your agenda.

    Our government is broken. The US constitution is not adequate to the task of serving as a basis for a 21st century democracy. You cannot disagree unless you treat it as a sacred text.

    For those afraid that this would mean bigger government, just realize that we already have a government too big for your taste, and it is completely logjammed that way.

    1. The US constitution is not adequate to the task of serving as a basis for a 21st century democracy. You cannot disagree unless you treat it as a sacred text.

      what if you disagree because the United States wasn’t set up as a democracy even though some epsilon semi-morons think it was?

      1. 17th amendment changed everything.

    2. Bigger is better, taxes on rich people need to be painful, straight white people suck ass, and everyone just needs to shut the fuck up and do whatever my political party wants.

      1. we already have a government too big for your taste

        …but not for YOUR taste, apparently.

        Our government is broken

        …due to the fact that not everyone in it wants to make more people dependent on public assistance, which does nothing to fix our problems, and only serves as a bribe for more votes for Democrats.

        “it is completely logjammed”

        …because we don’t bend over and agree with everything your party wants, whenever they want it.

        I think that about sums it up.

        1. You’ve barely scratched the surface, PO. Just wait until he really gets wound up.

    3. There are experts, American and otherwise, who travel the globe constructing constitutions for new democracies that crop up.

      TOP. MEN.

      But in all seriousness, fuck off, Tony. America is not a democracy. It is a Republic. May it ever remain as such.

    4. So amend the Constitution to get what you want.

      If you can’t produce majorities of the size required to pass amendments, then what basis do you have for thinking your proposed changes have a legitimate basis?

    5. The Soviet constitution mentions all the things you need, a scientific approach to society, free housing, free food, free health care and the fundamental right of the collective over the individual.

      1. Use that one, then.

        1. Oh, and add “free ponies” somewhere in there.

          1. What about the unicorns, goddamn it?!?!

        2. I doubt you would find anything wrong with it, your left wing ancestors all were fawning over it in the 1930’s it was the future, much more modern than that old fart US constitution.

          1. I’m pretty sure you’re arguing with a spoof.

    6. Tony, your statement is a bit too generic for me. What specifically would you change about the existing constitution? I am not asking you to supply a whole new constitution, just a list of (some) of the things you think are outdated.

      1. Kittehs instead of unicorns, and…prism rainbows instead of rain rainbows.

        1. “What specifically would you change”

          IT’S A TRAP!!!

    7. There are experts, American and otherwise, who travel the globe constructing constitutions for new democracies that crop up. It can happen. No one can seriously argue our system is without fundamental flaws. Well, in these parts it’s treated as a sacred text, and like all sacred texts, interpreted according to your agenda.

      Our government is broken. The US constitution is not adequate to the task of serving as a basis for a 21st century democracy. You cannot disagree unless you treat it as a sacred text.

      For those afraid that this would mean bigger government, just realize that we already have a government too big for your taste, and it is completely logjammed that way.

      Shorter Tony:

      1) Top. Men.

      2) Our government is broken, because it doesn’t do stuff I want it to do.

      3) We can fix #2 by having even more of what I just said is broken.

      1. new democracies that crop up

        I’m picturing Lucy Van Pelt stomping on the germs in the old Peanuts cartoons.

        Lucy: “New democracies?!”

        *STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP….STOMPSTOMPSTOMP!!*

        1. ^image win

    8. …unless you treat it as a sacred text.

      I don’t think you know what the definition of a sacred text is. An example might be the Ten Commandments. It wouldn’t be sacred if it included:

      Commandment 11 – Thou shalt propose Amendments to this holy list when deemed appropriate by my Children, or when They stop treating Me like a god.

    9. Tony|3.8.12 @ 5:37PM|#
      …”There are experts, American and otherwise, who travel the globe constructing constitutions for new democracies that crop up.”

      Look there! Shithead makes a funny!

      1. Didn’t you get the memo from Ken Schultz?

    10. There are experts, American and otherwise, who travel the globe constructing constitutions for new democracies

      For instance, the Bush administration has been doing this in the Middle East to rousing success!

    11. 21st Century democracies suck ass. I want to live in an 18th Century Republic where I would be a free man.

    12. Spoof. The “sorely needed” part is too direct. Tony usually starts by attacking libertarians and then pointing out what he wants is obvious to him and everyone who isn’t libertarian.

    13. This is sorely needed.

      Whoever you are…not your best effort. Wasn’t really believable.

  25. What a fustercluck a new constitutional convention would be. Look at all the trouble they have over a modest, two-month tax break; how could they ever agree on the fundamental clauses of a constitution?

    The only solution would be a dissolution of the union, allowing the creation of multiple constitutions. But that’s also not going to happen. Why even bother talking about it?

    1. Well, the convention would be the states and not Congress.

      1. This. Of course, the new Constitution could be crafted to cut the states out of the process… which to the modern progressive is kind of the point. Because states having any kind of legislative autonomy is racism. Straight up.

  26. Should Gingrich drop out?

    1. Well, he should drop a few pounds.

      1. Or drop dead.

  27. We best honor the Framers, then, by exhibiting their own willingness to challenge the verities of their times…

    PAUSE.

    You we best honor the Founders of America by challenging a tyrannical and overreaching government that imposes laws on the people regardless of their wishes or rights?

    I AGREE!!!!

  28. “The US constitution is not adequate to the task of serving as a basis for a 21st century democracy.”

    I suspect that the things you consider broken are not the things most other people would consider problematic. They changes you would make are things that you simply do not like, or worse, don’t understand the mechanics of and how its supposed to work within the system.

    There might be some improvements that can be made but I would not trust someone like you to make improvements whatsoever.

    1. “The US constitution is not adequate to the task of serving as a basis for a 21st century democracy.”

      Yeah. That nonsense about being secure in our homes and persons from unreasonable searches? Who needs that? Those rich white 18th Century slaveholders didn’t forsee that Great Persons like Barack Obama could be trusted with this power.

      And that baloney about a free press? What were those fat rich white guys thinking? I’m sure Ezra Klein would be the first to agree that this clause has to go.

      And WHY shouldn’t the government quarter troops in your home?

      And do you have any idea how damn inconvenient it is to provide due process before taking someone’s life, liberty or property?

      Let’s repeal it now and replace it with something that truly reflects 21st Century values.

      1. Ditto. IT’S NOT A SUICIDE PACT!!!!11!!

  29. “Starting from scratch” means literally that the present Constitution is null and void.

    Without the Constitution having binding effect, there is no legitimate federal government, but instead 50 sovereign nations who would have to want to agree to renew the union. I can easily imagine the USA breaking apart in such circumstances.

    A convention intended to amend the present Constitution might be a different matter, but getting anywhere near an agreement would be almost impossible.

  30. This is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever read on Reason.com.

    The existing Constitution is a “living document” and the current Congrefs and President have done a great job of using the evolving powers to enact necessary changes in law to keep up with current issues.

    Therefore, it’s not a question of “should we update it or not”. WHY EVEN ASK THAT QUESTION? It’s already updated ongoing, as required, to meet the needs of the world as it exists today.

    The Patriot Act and the new healthcare law (AKA “Obamacare”) are great examples of our new, evolving understanding of the Constitution to ensure our government can solve the problems of today.

    For teh children.

    Geez. For a magazine called “reason”…

    1. Also, COMMERCE CLAUSE, BYOTCHES!

      1. I trump your Commerce Clause with a Necessary and Proper Clause.

        1. Word.

        2. Feh. “General welfare,” mothafuckas.

  31. Will we get to know what they’ll be putting in the new one? Or will we have to wait until they pass it find out what’s in it?

    1. The convention will be held behind closed doors, and the Constitution itself will be classified as soon as it it passed, as provided for in Article [REDACTED], Clause [REDACTED] of the New United States Constitution.

  32. Like they pay any attention to the one we already have?

  33. FDR and his court hijacked this one in 1936.

    Hijacking The General Welfare Clause

    http://tirelessagorist.blogspo…..lause.html

    1. Checked out your blog.

      In the words of the immortal, hall of famer, Dickie V:

      AWESOME, BABY!

  34. Also:

    We best honor the Framers, then, by exhibiting their own willingness to challenge the verities of their times and to cease our own often “blind veneration” for the Constitution they created.

    Besides the fact that this sentence is grammatically nonsensical, our veneration for the Constitution is anything but blind. We understand exactly why they did what they did, and it is because of that that we venerate the document.

  35. There are certainly things I would change about the constitution. A more explicit explanation of the limits of federal power would be handy. And a more explicit 14th amendment.
    But I agree that starting from scratch would be a disaster in the current climate.

  36. No.

    You know who else said “no?”

    THE CONFEDERACY

  37. One thing not in dispute: Ezra Klein is easily confused.

    1. He’s easily confused but never wrong!

      I would never follow a constitution endorsed by SmugFace ManChild McDickBag.

  38. I deem the new Constitution? to have been passed.

    We’re taking all your money for starters. We’ll tell you the rest….nah, fuck all o’ y’all. Just give up the duckets and shut the fuck up.

    1. We have to pass it to know what’s in it.

    2. I tip my hat.

  39. I read Levinson’s book and participated in a small group discussion with him form my Law School orientation. Smart guy but I’ll stick with what we go over something someone like him cooks up.

    1. form gogot

      And the book/discussion was on this topic.

  40. “Rather than wasting time and energy on drafting a whole new constitution, why not focus on getting the government to actually follow the one we’ve got?”
    Whose going to make’em???
    When everyone can vote everyone loses.

  41. Stupid idea.

    But… a reset would be nice. Revoke every federal law, executive order, and regulation. Disband every civilian department and agency, fire every civilian employee – and start from scratch.

    That would be nice.

  42. If they can’t stick to the Constitution we already have, what makes anyone think a new one would be less useful toilet paper?

  43. Since everyone here is against a cc I’ll play devil’s advocate.

    I’ll start with a few observations.

    1) The constitutional delineation of state and federal powers was slowing eviscerated between 1860 and 1915. The federal reserve, direct election of Senators and federal Income Tax all enacted in the first first half of the 1910s effectively killed federalism. A reality that was embraced and extended by various SCOTUS rulings throughout the 20th century.

    2)The constitution as an absolute guarantor of individual rights was killed during WWII when SCOTUS validated the new deal, including the abomination of Wickard and the even worse internment of Japanese American civilians. Today the federal government imprisons individuals for any number of non crimes, not just in the war on drugs, but also for importing lobsters, engaging in contracts that are not approved by the feds.

    1. 3)A large part of the federal over reach is driven by extra constitutional regulatory bureaucracies that have been given legislative and judicial functions, which is clearly unconstitutional by any plain reading of that text.

      So, this constitution that so many revere bears no resemblance to the actual structure and powers of the current federal government. The parts that are still adhered to are those features that make rolling back the size and scope of government impossible.

    2. …and, therefore, we should give all this the rubber stamp of approval.

      You do that if you want. I won’t.

  44. Those who wish to rewrite the Constitution are impatient. #There.IS.An.Amendment.Process

    1. ‘course, we got some shitty Amendments out of that same process.

  45. Hey, has anyone made the observation that the government doesn’t follow…

    oh yeah i see it’s been said 1,000 fucking times.

  46. When asked what he thought about civilization, Gandhi remarked that it would be a “good idea.” The same is true of the Constitution: we should try following it some time.

  47. Richard Epstein is a badass, by the way. He wrote the brilliant Simple Rules for a Complex World, which was reviewed in this very magazine (back when Postrel was running the show, of course).

  48. Now that I think about it, I think the reason these dipshits want a new constitution isn’t because they feel constrained by the current one. Rather, a brand new constitution would take away one final basis for dissent from the other side. It would be their own special final solution.

  49. We should replace the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation and keep the Bill of Rights. Scrap the rest.

  50. Reason liberals want to change the Constitution! Kinda hard to understand freedom when your heads shoved up your ass!

  51. In a 2010 interview on MSNBC, liberal Washington Post writer Ezra Klein said that the U.S. Constitution “is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago.”

    This is a stupid and shallow argument. The only thing that it proves is that Americans are far less literate than they were “more than 100 years ago”, hardly a ringing endorsement of the public education system.

    The real reason, obviously, is that the darned old thing sometimes manages to get in the way of somebody’s Big Government scheme, and that just won’t do.

    A similar dumbass argument is often employed to support tax increases: “but we haven’t raised that tax in ten years!” Upon hearing that, we’re supposed to stop thinking about what the tax was originally intended to do, how the money is being spent now, or what the new money will be spent on.

  52. Tony, etc. How would you like a new constitution written by Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, John Woo, Franklin Graham, and Dick Cheney? Better watch out what you wish for…..

  53. These guys seem to know what time it is, oh yeah!

    http://www.Done-Anon.tk

  54. No good can possibly come from a Constitutional Convention unless firearm duels are allowed. Without that, no one will play fair.

  55. Wouldn’t scrapping the Constitution mean that the entire federal government is disbanded until a new agreement is reached? Or, failing that, after an agreement is reached. Scrapping the constitution means scrapping the U.S. and replacing it with U.S. 2.0. New capital, new institutions, new people, etc.

    If so, I don’t think the 50 states are ever coming back together. You’ll get a few big blocs.

    At any rate, if we do have one, a couple of suggestions:
    1) Break federal agencies up into wholly separate institutions with their own elected rulemaking, executive, and judicial structures, funded by taxes on states.

    2) Add all old common law rights as enumerated rights.

    1. More elections sounds nice, until you see it in practice. Living in California, I was at any one time subject to voting for a dozen governing bodies and offices – five or six statewide offices, multiple court levels, transportation district, water district, fire district, public school district, community college district, sewer district, flood district, library district, BOE district (tax agency overseer) and on and on. It becomes incredibly difficult to tell who’s who, even after reading the gauzy and inoffensive candidate statements.

      More elections at some point means less-informed voters. Voters should have more say in the election of fewer officers – best achieved by far more representatives and more districts with fewer voters per district, and fewer levels of government being voted on.

    2. Also, I imagine it’s hard to incorporate the common law, especially since a lot of the common law has been overridden by statutory law.

      Common law also had some inconsistent rights, and some unlibertarian rights. Like the right to sunlight, which was basically a forced easement against your neighbors, prohibiting development of their land if it would block your view.

      Probably best to avoid common law and just start listing some specific rights to be protected, then including an explicit statement that everybody has the right to be free as long as they don’t cause physical harm to others, and a prohibition on the government restricting any behavior not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

      It’ll never perfectly protect our freedoms, but then that’s government for you.

  56. The amendment process is probably more appropriate, because it allows debate to focus on key items and the entire legal ecosystem to evolve over time rather than just dumping a big pile of new rules and balances all at once. If everything changes, it’s hard to debate because it’s hard to know the effects.

    I think the larger problem is that everybody hates politics, but there’s no clear consensus for any specific reform except some vague budgetary reforms. We need more democracy or more federalism or more socialism or more speech or more equality or more markets or whatever. I think the convention is a gambit to get all these minorly popular initiatives to line up behind ‘reform’ itself, since the various ideas lack the independent support to become amendments.

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